Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting in the Spirit

I haven't been at my home for Christmas in a long time, and though I'm very sad to be missing out on my family's Christmas, I am finding it very exciting to get ready for Christmas at home.  I'm doing all the things I never do because I won't be here to enjoy them, and best of all, my new hubby and I are working on building our own traditions.  CodeNinja usually puts up a tree and all that, so he has some things already, and I brought some ornaments and things back from my visit to my parents.  But, there are a lot of things we don't have because we are so used to going back to our respective parental abodes for Christmas.  Some things we brought with us, but some things it just seemed wrong to take from home.  So, our childhood stockings will be hanging on our parents' mantles as usual, and I am making some for us.

It took me a while to decide on The Great Christmas Stocking Plan, but there was plenty to do in the meantime.  I decorated our mantle, we put up a Christmas tree (a real one) and decorated it with lights.  Of course, accessorizing is everything, so we did some shopping for various accoutrements that we needed.

We got a tree skirt.


And an angel.


And two stocking hangers engraved with our names.  Mine is a snowflake and CodeNinja's is a Christmas tree.  Isn't it all lovely?


I am totally going to sneak an extra set of colored lights on the top, because for some reason the top appears to have many more white lights than the lower half.

By the time we were thus fully equipped, I had consulted Ravelry, pondered stocking patterns, and deliberated (with the help of friends) over yarn selection.  I settled on Berrocco Comfort in white, green, and red.  CodeNinja's stocking will be red with green cuff, heels, and toes, and mine will be the reverse, and the white is to be used as an accent color on both. 

I looked at a bazillion stocking patterns, but none of them were right for me.  I have an intense dislike for colorwork (not the look, but the act of knitting it) and most of the other stockings that were cabled or otherwise textured, didn't seem to really lay/hang nicely due to the changing - tension isn't the word I'm looking for.  Sucking in in places?  Cables, ribbing, textured areas, all tend to kind of make the stocking either wider or narrower in places.  Yes, it could probably be blocked out, but I don't really want to spend a ton of time reblocking the stockings every year and what have you.

So I decided to wing it.  I'm using a plain vanilla sock pattern as my base, and I'll just knit a really big sock. I decided on a seed stitch "cuff" with about 4 rows in white, then as many in green as I felt looked good, and then four more rows of white, and then I would start the stockinette stitch in red.   So, having settled on a nice worsted weight yarn, (and acquiring appropriate needles, which OF COURSE, despite the size of my needle collection, I did not have) I got started on CodeNinja's stocking. 

I learned a few things during this process.
--The number of stitches I should cast on to reach all the way around my 16" circular is 80.
--Seed stitch does not work properly unless you have an odd number of stitches.  Increase by 1 to solve.  Make a mental note to cast on 81 for the second stocking.
--Color changes in seed stitch are not particularly neat.  See the sort of checkered row?


Some people might not be bothered by this.  Some might even like it.  Me?  It made me crazy.  I was fretting about it on Ravelry when it hit me.  I could do a Latvian braid there!  That would totally make a nicer transition.

I didn't really want to rip out what I had until I was sure that I would like the braid better (I was some distance further on the stocking than shown in this picture before I could admit to myself that I didn't like the color change), so I cast on for my stocking, figuring I would work the braid on it, and then if it worked out better, I would rip back the first one, and if not, I could stop and just carry on with what I was doing before.

I did the braid and, except for one mishap where I realized halfway through the second row of braid that I had miscrossed something in the first row, right at front and center where it would really show, so I had to back up and do it over again, it was lovely.


Then I kept merrily knitting along and...


There's the checkered row again.  Curses.  It's much more livable in this form, in my opinion, as it blends into the braid.  I tried to think of a way I could redo the second row so as not to get that, but I came up empty.  I could twist the strands but not purl with the white, but that seemed fraught with peril to me.

Tension was also a bit of an issue when working the braid, because I didn't want to make the braid so tight that it constricted the stocking, nor did I want it to be so loose that it didn't look good, so there was much anxiety over that.  Ultimately, though, I think the braid is really pretty and I'm going to go with this plan.  So, my pattern for the leg will be:

4 rows of seed stitch, white
1 latvian braid, green & white for his, red & white for me
Seed stitch, green for him, red for me, until I get tired of it or it looks like I have enough.
1 latvian braid in the other direction, green & white for his, red & white for me
4 rows of seed stitch, white
1 latvian braid in the direction of the first, red & white for his, green & white for me
Stockinette stitch leg until I think it's big enough.  Contrast color heel.  Foot until I'm happy with it.  Contrast color toe.

All of which has to be done in time to hang up on Christmas eve.  I can totally do that, right?